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Bin Laden spokesman pleads not guilty to plot

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Sulaiman Abu Ghaith Sulaiman Abu Ghaith
Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan (AP file photo) Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan (AP file photo)
NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

A senior al-Qaida leader and son-in-law of Osama bin Laden has pleaded not guilty to plotting against Americans in his role as the terror network's spokesman.

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith entered the plea through a lawyer to one count of conspiracy to kill Americans in federal court in New York on Friday.

Prosecutors say Abu Ghaith praised the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and warned there would be more.

U.S. prosecutor John P. Cronan said Friday Abu Ghaith made an "extensive post-arrest statement" that totaled 22 pages. Cronan gave no details about what Abu Ghaith said.

Abu Ghaith pleaded not guilty during the 15-minute proceeding to one count of conspiracy to kill Americans. Defense attorney Philip Weinstein says attorneys met with their client "several times before this proceeding."

Bail was not requested at the hearing and none was set. The judge says he will set a trial date at the next conference in the case, which is scheduled for April 8. Prosecutors say a trial is expected to last about three weeks.

Abu Ghaith was born in Kuwait. Authorities say he was captured in Jordan over the last week.

President Barack Obama's administration has sought to charge senior al-Qaida suspects in American federal courts instead of military tribunals, but Republicans in Congress don't want high-threat terror suspects brought into the United States.

Abu Ghaith was is in U.S. custody in New York City on Thursday, the FBI announced.

Abu Ghaith, formerly a Kuwaiti citizen, was recently deported from Turkey to Jordan, where CIA and FBI operatives captured him, The Wall Street Journal reported.

A federal grand jury has indicted Abu Ghaith with conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, the FBI said. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

"No amount of distance or time will weaken our resolve to bring America's enemies to justice," Attorney General Holder said in a statement. "To violent extremists who threaten the American people and seek to undermine our way of life, this arrest sends an unmistakable message: There is no corner of the world where you can escape from justice because we will do everything in our power to hold you accountable to the fullest extent of the law."

Counterterrorism officials believe that he traveled to Afghanistan in 2000 to join Al Qaeda. They consider him to be a longtime core member of the terror group. He appeared in videos alongside bin Laden and also made remarks defending the September 11, 2001, attacks.

"Sulaiman Abu Ghayth held a key position in al Qaeda, comparable to the consigliere in a mob family or propaganda minister in a totalitarian regime," FBI Assistant Director in Charge George Venizelos said in a statement. "He used his position to persuade others to swear loyalty to al Qaeda's murderous cause. He used his position to threaten the United States and incite its enemies. His apprehension is another important step in the campaign to limit the reach of al Qaeda and enhance our national and international security."

"Definitely, one by one, we are getting the top echelons of al-Qaida," Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said, according to the AP. "I give the (Obama) administration credit for this: it's steady and it's unrelenting and it's very successful."

King, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said that law enforcement officials told him of Abu Ghaith's capture, which happened last week.

U.S. authorities brought Abu Ghaith to New York City sometime in recent days, where the FBI was interrogating him. He is expected toi be arraigned in Federal District Court on Friday, March 8, the FBI said.

After 9/11, the government of Kuwait stripped him of his citizenship, the BBC reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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